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EU Team Reports Little Agreement With Zimbabwe Leader - 2001-11-23

European Union officials said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has rejected requests to allow EU monitors into the country for next year's presidential elections. The announcement came after a tense round of talks in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel told reporters the EU team "did not have a meeting of minds with Zimbabwean President Robert Mubage."

He said there was no constructive exchange of views during the 90 minute talks.

The main topic at the meeting was supposed to be the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Zimbabwean troops have been supporting the Congolese government in its fight against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda. The EU team, led by Mr. Michel, has been making the rounds of countries involved in the conflict.

But the European officials also used the opportunity to discuss other issues.

Mr. Michel said the 20-member EU delegation expressed its concern over Zimbabwe's land reform program, threats to press freedom and the legitimacy of the elections scheduled for next year. The proposals got what he called a "brutal response" from the Zimbabwean leader.

He said relations between the EU and Zimbabwe have reached a critical stage.

Mr. Michel indicated there is very little chance Zimbabwe will allow international observers to monitor the presidential election.

The European Union is considering imposing sanctions on Harare. It demanded consultations over Zimbabwe's human rights record.

The EU visit came amid a crackdown on opposition party members and the independent news media. In the last week, the government has said it intends to pass harsh new laws against insurgency and terrorism, including a possible death penalty for offenders. At the same time, it has accused opposition party members of terrorism.

The government Friday named a list of journalists it accused of aiding terrorist activities in Zimbabwe.

The list, published in the state-run Herald newspaper, included correspondents from the Associated Press, the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, South Africa's Star newspaper, and three British papers: The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the Times of London.

A government spokesman told the Herald those reporters have been misrepresenting the facts about political violence in Zimbabwe.

He was responding to a letter written to the government by the U.S. embassy in Harare, protesting against the recent outbreak of violence against opposition supporters in the southwestern city of Bulawayo. Earlier this week, somebody firebombed the Bulawayo office of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

The independent and foreign press have reported that ruling party supporters have attacked the opposition, who they blame for the murder of ruling party militant Cain Nkala.

The government said those media reports are false. And it said the U.S. letter could spark a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.